Black Christmas (1974)
Back of the box...
“A sleepy small university town is shaken by the mysterious disappearance of a college girl and the discovery of a child, brutally murdered in the park. Someone has been calling the sorority house with horrifying cryptic stories about abortion and the beating of a child. . . Will the girls be able to discover who the stalking psychopath is before he kills them all? Will anyone in the sorority house manage to survive Black Christmas?
Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet), Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey), Margot Kidder (Superman), and John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street) star in this classic thriller.”
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Olivia Hussey
Watch the Trailer
An early entry in the slasher genre, Black Christmas is said to have paved for way for many an on-screen college coed bloodbath to come. It is also credited with being a major influence behind John Carpenter’s Halloween which was released just four years later. Is any of this true? We’re not sure! But it’s also said that Black Christmas is based on a string of murders that happened in Westmount, Quebec, and if you can find any evidence of this being true we’d love to see it because we sure couldn’t. One thing we did find was that in 1978 Ted Bundy walked into a sorority house through an open back door and brutally attacked four sleeping college students, killing two of them before fleeing down the street to attack again. Black Christmas was scheduled to air on television shortly after this event but was pulled due to the similarities of the attacks.
The film opens with “killer vision” POV as a cameraman prowls around outside of a sorority house Christmas party before crawling through an open window. Not long after, the girls receive another in a series of disturbing phone calls as the killer continues to watch them from inside the house. Dismissing it as a perverted prank the girls go to bed, not noticing that one of their sisters has disappeared until her dad shows up the next day looking for her. A missing person's report is filed but not taken very seriously by the police until the body of a young boy is found in a nearby park. The sorority sisters continue to receive the crude phone calls while, unknown to them, the killer skulks around in their attic with the body of their missing sister.
Black Christmas features Margot Kidder as a drunk loud mouth who we didn’t realize wasn’t the main character until about halfway through the movie. This was to our dismay as she far outshines the rest of the cast and we would have liked to see more of her antics on screen. John Saxon plays police Lt. Fuller in a role that feels oddly similar to his role in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Is his drunk wife at home looking after a young Nancy while he searches for the missing sorority girl? We’d like to think so.
With all of its accolades as a source of slasher inspiration, Black Christmas isn’t as great on it’s own as you might think. It’s by no means the worst slasher movie ever—we’re posting that one tomorrow—but it doesn’t quite measure up to the films that followed. It’s like Street Fighter to Street Fighter 2, or season 1 of The Simpsons to season 6. These things were perfected to such a high standard that to compare their later iterations to their humble beginnings would be unfair. Black Christmas can be a little boring but it does have some creepy scenes that cause genuine uneasiness—the phone calls will make you squirm—and it’s the actual first movie to use the classic line “the call is coming from inside the house!”